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Bedlam, death rock Florida ZombiCon fest

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 10/18/2015 Melissa Montoya, Ben Brasch, The News-Press, and John Bacon, USA TODAY

Police cars block off an area of downtown Fort Myers, Florida, on October 18, 2015, after shots were fired during the ZombiCon event. © Courtesy of Fort Myers Police Department via Facebook Police cars block off an area of downtown Fort Myers, Florida, on October 18, 2015, after shots were fired during the ZombiCon event. FORT MYERS, Fla. — A manhunt was underway Sunday after a shooting rampage at a zombie-themed festival left one person dead, four wounded and pandemonium on downtown streets.

The four wounded victims at ZombiCon on Saturday night were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, according to police Lt. Victor Medico. ZombiCon, an annual event in its ninth year, was expected to draw more than 20,000 people.

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There were "a lot of witnesses down here, there were a lot of people taking pictures, videos with their cellphone," Medico said. "Anything that could help with this investigation would be greatly appreciated."

The shots began at 11:45 p.m., he said. Chaos reigned as crowds from ZombiCon raced through De Leon Plaza.

"We didn't know if it was real or fake," Haley Delmonte of Naples told WBBH-TV. "Heard gunshots right in front of me. Saw people running and my mind was everywhere. It was so scary. We ran, then we were like wait... was that real?"

Pushing DaiZies, Inc., organizers of the event, published a statement on Facebook expressing sadness for "what happened within the footprint" of their festival.

"We take the safety of our patrons very seriously and take precautions in hiring security and police officers," the statement said. "Our prayers go out to the family members and individuals involved in the incident."

Skye Tobias commented on the post, saying she was near the gunfire.

"Heard gunshots right in front of me," Tobias said. "Saw people running and my mind was everywhere. It was so scary."

Some patrons of the event questioned the security measures.

"They patted me down and weren't going to let me bring fake handcuffs in but they let some guy walk in with a gun?! Just stupid," commented Joelle Faith Filippone-Greaves.

Minutes after the shooting, police strung crime scene tape across the entrance to the plaza and started clearing bars and downtown streets. Officers with rifles patrolled the streets around the crime scene and ordered people milling around to clear the area.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office set up a command center nearby and deputies assisted Fort Myers police officers in dispersing the ZombiCon crowd.

Bacon reported from McLean, Va. ​Contributing: Michael Braun, The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press

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